02/01/2019

Blessings from Belize

By Nathan Law (’20)

For me, traveling to a small Mayan village in Belize was a refreshing breath of air that put a positive cap to an otherwise ordinary year. I discovered a lot about myself and learned more than a few things about a very unique culture that I will most likely never get to experience again. I left a part of my heart with the amazing people we met during our stay.  Some of the most impressive individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting reside in San Jose, and it does seem that the clearing in the rain forest that they call home is just a purer version of the world we live in. 

Aside from the personal and people-related aspects of the trip, I experienced a truly breathtaking section of the world. The citizens of Belize have their energy outmatched only by the vibrant, beautiful scenery which surrounds the land they call home. The trip allowed me to pause and contemplate my “ordinary” life while also experiencing a land that is truly extraordinary.  My personal decision-making may not always be fantastic, but going on the trip and taking that leap was easily one of the best choices I’ve ever made.

I cannot truly begin to mention how refreshing the trip was for me.  Personally I do sometimes struggle with the mundane, cyclical life that I live.  When I originally signed up for the trip I just viewed it as something that would at least put a little variety and - sorry Mom- get me out of the house over Christmas break.   I and the others who went took a leap not truly knowing what to expect.  I was personally hoping that something within myself would click and spark a fire that had dulled in recent months. I hoped for clarity in my mind and sense of belonging in my heart that my day-to-day life lacked.  As soon as I arrived in Belize I realized I had totally undersold it to myself. I stepped onto an airport runway that would at the very most be considered unimpressive, but I looked around and it was as if the color of the world came back to life. 

In Belize I mattered:  I was a part of a fantastic community of people which made it impossible to keep down, the constant activities kept me moving and with something to do so I felt more driven, and all of this was occurring in a new place for me to discover everything. 

The information overload was beyond sensational.  Everywhere I looked there was some new sensation to experience- whether it be walking down the street or sitting in a cramped car there was always something stimulating.  All of the people were entirely different and I could watch their actions and cues to understand an entire new culture of people.  

The awe of the initial explosion of newness I felt peaked when I was sitting outside looking at the stars. I’ve always been fascinated by the awe of the skies and all things up, but in the past I had been so bogged down in reality that I forgot what all exists in the world to be explored.  After that night I made a point to stop everywhere we went and look up;  whether it be bathing in the river and looking up into the canopy of trees or watching the fog fade away as the morning sun cut through, I always tried to look up.  Everything seems more pure the farther away one gets away from the ground, and especially in San Jose the beauty and purity of the skies was especially evident. 

At the same time I was being blown away with the setting I was in, I was also looking inward to both myself and those around me. I hate talking feeling and rarely ever do more than cut up with anyone, but the reflections forced me to look inward and I feel greatly helped my overall self to just sit down, think, and talk. 

Outside of myself, I was constantly observing the villagers. The constant joy surrounding the kids along with the positive (and sometimes extreme) energy they brought was touching to witness. Their smiles seemed to offer a glimpse of how happy they were within. The adults we met were largely incredibly driven people who all would stop on a moment’s notice to extend kindness and provide for us. They were incredibly welcoming people who would give anything they had to make our experience better. This all took place around the teaching we were doing at the camp, which was fun work that gave me a sense of some self-value. 

On top of experiencing all of the incredible love of both the environment and gaining so many great memories within the loving community within San Jose, I also had my eyes reopened to faith through the various experiences our group had.  If I were filling out a piece of paper or if someone would to ask me what religious background I was from, I would respond that I am a Christian (Baptist to be precise).  Although I am a believer, I occasionally wander away from religion in mind and soul.  

In Belize we had the pleasure of watching an entirely new culture of people worship our shared faith. I took our moments both in the chapel and witnessing the cultural celebrations to be an active spectator. Personally I was involved in all these activities but I felt as if I gained more by stopping and looking at the faces of those around me. The way the villagers worship I cannot accurately put into words. I know there are without a doubt they pray and worship like normal, take the cleansing of the body and ceremonies very seriously, and sing like you would not believe. They sing, and sing, and sing.

I have much love for all of the villagers and am grateful for every experience I have with them.  One take away I have from that experience is how deep their songs really are. The culture is largely musical, but no song goes without meaning, and as the villagers sang they all sang with a look of deep sincerity. Every churchgoer actively sang and the collective group of churchgoers were all connected through song. It was a pleasure to witness how intently they worshipped and it caused me to realize what the connection of a church group can really mean. 

The trip and all the wonder we experienced led to an incredible bonding of all of us involved and we all have stories to tell together now that only we will truly understand. The sense of fulfillment I came back with, along with genuine happiness, helped to remind me of the good things in life.  And I hope to keep the changed perspective I had of things as well as improve myself. 

There’s a decent chance that the trip could go down as the best ten days of my life, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

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Nathan Law is a Business Economics Junior from Arab, Alabama and a member of the Loyola Baseball Team.  Nate traveled with ten other members of the Loyola Baseball Team in December to spend ten days in a small Mayan village in Belize, Central America to facilitate a Christmas Camp for almost 100 young primary school children.  The trip was sponsored by the Office of Mission & Identity and led by Father Ted Dziak, S.J. 

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